Sunday, December 16, 2007

Wildcrafting with Feral Oranges

Feral Oranges: they're lumpy, covered with warts, and they taste bad. But that's no excuse to let them fall to the ground and rot.

Central and North Florida are full of feral orange trees. Some are remnants of old groves, others are volunteers of these domesticates, and still others are direct descendants of the original Spanish oranges favored by the Native Americans.

But to the typical neighborhood housing committee, these fruit trees are considered a nuisance. That's because they attract animals, and also because of the nasty stinking mess that rotten oranges make when they are not picked. To review: feral orange trees are a nuisance because animals try to harvest the fruit, and also because animals are incapable of harvesting all the fruit.

You can almost hear the hushed whisper during the neighborhood meetings: That's terrible, isn't it, all those disgusting animals creeping around in our neighborhood, tainting our perfect lawns?

So we harvested a bucket of these fangley fruit in a suburban neighborhood outside of Orlando. Over the last few weeks, we've been adding the taste of feral to our dishes, mostly in the curries and stews that call for lemon or vinegar.

But last night we hit our stride. I bring you: the Feral Lemondrop.

Recipe for Feral Lemondrops
1. Squeeze those warty and maligned juicy oranges.
2. Add sugar or honey to taste (just like lemonade).
3. Add your favorite inebriate - we went with a dry sake and triple sec.
4. Crust the glass rims with unrefined or raw sugar.
5. Enjoy the sweet tang of feral with some ginger cookies or shortbread.

Thanks to the "Feral Princess" for her participation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ancestral Brew in Ireland

This is applied archaeology at its best:

Two hungover scientists decided to test their theory that some Bronze age trenches were made to brew beer.

From the Wired story:

Then they repurposed a cattle trough, filling it with water and placing it in a clay-lined hole. Using granite stones toasted in a nearby fire, the pair heated the water until it was steaming but not bubbling — according to the brewers they consulted, 153 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for breaking down starch into sugar. Then they scooped in barley. After bringing the concoction to a boil, they transferred it to containers, added bog myrtle, meadow sweet, and, of course, yeast — all ingredients available to Bronze Age boozers.

These intrepid truth-seekers knew they were on to something after they got drunk on their dirty trench beer.

Thanks to Archeoblog for the lead.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

the Murky Murk

Besides reflecting on the particularities of marsh ecology, the following quotation also reveals why Luke Skywalker had to train in Dagobah.

"What should the seeker of enlightenment do? Fearlessly look into the seat of the trouble. Where the grief is the strongest, the doubt most disturbing, the turmoil most opaque, the ignorance most dark - that is the place where enlightenment will break through. Lotuses only grow in swamps."
David Brazier, from the Feeling Buddha

Friday, November 30, 2007

Peak oil and bleak marshes

A longtime reader of Dreamcrisp requested more photos of Paynes Prairie. Well, here you go. The subtle beauty of the north Florida wilderness is hard to capture, and I'm sorry to say that this image reveals little of this ecosystem's certain magic. But if you could just smell the breeze.... I'm hoping to get out for another photo foray soon, so stayed tuned.

In other news, I recently found this authority site on Peak Oil by Matt Savinar. This information has been well cited in government halls, including the floor of the Senate. If you only read one article on peak oil and the imminent collapse of our economy, let it be from Matt's library.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The other first Thanksgiving

I can't believe it's been a year since the last good lookin' bird. Last year, Thanksgiving was all about gathering the other orphans far from their families and reminding them they are loved. This year, well, they have to fend for themselves because we're back in the fold. Sorry ya'll. I'll mail some leftovers.

This year, it's all about extended family for us. No, make that two extended families. First my family and then hers. It's like a bad stovetop stuffing commercial. But there will be Aunt Josephine's wicked corn fritters, and many other classic northeastern recipes involving cream, butter and shortening.

And believe it or not, I'm closer to the Original Thanksgiving than ever before. That's right: Jacksonville, 1564. Fort Caroline was built shortly after the French sat down to a meal with the Timucua Indians.

I really don't why we cling to the vision of the first thanksgiving, given what I know about the history of the US. It's not exactly a history of delicious meals with Native Americans and Europeans sitting at the same table, is it?

Maybe giving thanks is as close to atonement that European-Americans can get. Maybe today's abundance will wash over the harsh memories of yesterday. Maybe it's about forgiveness - the hardest kind: forgiving our culture, our ancestors, and our ourselves.

The deeper history of thanksgiving doesn't involve projecting our indigenous selves onto other people who have been oppressed by colonization. Harvest festivals have been around since there was grain to reap. In its original and most basic context, thanksgiving is about celebrating the fruits of a hard year's work. For my ancestors, it's also time to bundle up and play dice on a dirt floor for three months while it snows outside.

So, thanks to everyone in my life. Thanks for showing up for me this year. Thanks for the courage it takes to be real. And thanks for letting me be real too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sonny's reign

It rained in North GA last night - up to .75 of an inch in some locales. Governor Sonny Purdue is calling it an affirmation. Of what, exactly, I'm not sure. That God listened? Or that our elected officials function better as charismatic gurus than civic leaders?

But now's as good a time as any to remember the Maharishi Effect. Keep praying for rain, and our elected weather shaman may fill the reservoirs after all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

We're prayin' for rain

The Governor of Georgia finally took action two days ago and faced the crowd to say that it's true that the state is fixing to run out of water.

From NPR news: Perdue, a Baptist, said people here have not done all they can to conserve and manage the state's resources.

What's up his sleeves - A new water sharing plan with Alabama? A moratorium on industry to not dip so many of their spacely sprockets into the last vat of the drinking water, at least for a day or two? Sue Florida again because all of Georgia's water is running downhill? Or a plea for residents to perhaps forgo shaving their legs in the tub?

No, he prayed for rain. Read a more holistic account of this spectacle by a Georgia native. I'm too pissed off to be holistic right now, but I am talking about sacred rage so maybe it's Integral Frothing.

I grew up in Georgia too, but I'm viscerally removed from this Twilight Zone episode. My water's coming straight out of the aquifer that is located 60 feet under my feets, so my anger is also slouching at a comfortable distance. Or so it seems.

More from NPR: The governor has been focused on the drought for weeks. Last month, Perdue declared a state of emergency in much of Georgia and called for conservation.

Just think of that - the governor has been focused for weeks. Weeks at a time, even. That's the kind of foresight we need given the current pizza party that is 21st century civilization.

Is the first world crashing down? Not quite yet. But this could be a tragedy and an expensive one too. Georgia is about to owe another big one to the feds. Don't rise right now, ya'll. Just drink the trucked-in water, don't leave your homes, stock up on wonderbread and it'll work out.

As for praying for rain itself, not the lack of civic thinking, the denial of the term carrying capacity, and Purdue's historic green light on anything resembling growth, I'm all for it. It's a time tested method. It's worked in the Middle East for thousands of years. Oh, wait, that was 1999. Okay, it still can't hurt.

Let's all check up on the Global Consciousness Project just in case.

Maybe the Urban Scout is on to something. Maybe we should learn to swim if we're prayin' for rain.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My biggest fan

My biggest fan did this to himself. I'm not making this up, this is not my arm. I don't even have that much hair on my chest.

Thanks, guy.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

UN passes Declaration of Indigenous Rights

While only time will tell if this measure is a massive "human rights-washing" campaign or a real fresh start to globalization politics, this week we can celebrate that the UN passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with overwhelming support.

Dissenters were predictably what has come to be called the CANZAUS group - Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States. (AKA those who have the most to lose as Indigenous Peoples have politically organized and remain committed to managing their own resources and rejecting the homogenizing and destructive forces of industrial capitalism).

It's not legally binding, of course, but the declaration does come into direct conflict with many of the WTO's primary goals, so let's watch to see how this plays out in the near future.

In other news, it's cold as a mug down here tonight. Awesome.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rewilding aka Feralization

Rewilding is how we learn to live in a sustainable way as individuals, families, and as a larger culture. My friends also call this process feralization. It's not about going back to the stone age, but forward into a new age - not "The" New Age, mind you. As my friend Bruce Lerro likes to say "This is not the New Age and we are definitely not all one."

But that's exactly where globalization is taking us, to a monoculture that is unsustainable and dangerous to everyone involved - why? because our infastructure is more interconnected than ever before. The stage is set for a collapse of the civilization process that began 6000 years ago - and this is no longer fringe science, ya'll. Whether its gonna be thirty years or 150, the global civilization lifestyle is on its way out via peak oil, climate change, population boom, and the meltdown of industrial agriculture.

If you're a typical suburban-raised American like me, then getting food is about to get very interesting. When the dust bowl last rolled through 70 years ago, most Americans still lived on farms, and had a basement full of canned goods, a pen full of chickens, and control over their own water. Last I checked, 80% of us live in cities or suburbs and buy our salads in a bag. And don't get me started on the scarcity of water. Meanwhile, the sea levels rise...

So why wait? Let's start living the good life now. Collapse may or may not go down as prophesied by the apocalytic neo-Quinnians, but we're shifting the culture anyway - away from a world of ever increasing work and debt, and towards a future of abundance. As such, feralization is not about giving up on modern life, but giving back to our communities, human and nonhuman.

Check out this short video of Urban Scout discussing the basics of rewilding at a recent event in Portland:

and if Urban Scout's prognosis about civilization collapsing in the next fifty years scares you into never leaving home again, follow up with this video by Feral Kevin about his edible apartment balcony:

Basically, it makes me feel better to be prepared. We all have our own ways of going feral; there is no one right way. In fact, mono-ideas are just as bad as monocropping and monocultures as far as I'm concerned. I'm a dreamer and a writer, so my work involves sharing ideas, building communities and helping folks reconnect to their native dreaming intelligences. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The landscape dreaming

Faithful readers,

it's time for a quick update on my adjustment to life in the southern hinterlands. North Central Florida is a place of delicate beauty, most of which has gone unnoticed by me as I tend to focus on picking the sand spurs out of my feet and the ticks out of my various nooks and crannies.

But check out this sleepy eyed view of a local cementary, complete with banana spider:

and just so there's no question as to the mythological framework of this place, ie the dreaming of land:

This is a place of fragrant breezes, big skies, and quiet mornings. It's also a place of stories, deep roots, and long memories. My friend Raven lent me the book Cross Creek just before I left California, and this book has turned out to be a spiritual guide to this area.

Here is what Marjorie Rawlings sez about entering a grove - she's talking about orange groves but I feel it with the live oak savannahs too:

"Any grove or any wood is a fine thing to see. But the magic here, strangely, is not apparent from the road. It is necessary to leave the impersonal highway, to step inside the rusty gate and close it behind. By this, an act of faith is committed, through which one accepts blindly the communion cup of beauty. One is now inside the grove, out of one world and in the mysterious heart of another." (p15)

A big theme for us has been walking down the trail and running straight into spider webs. The spider webs on the trail are thresholds like Rawling's rusty gate, and they are showing up in dreams too as signals to pay attention. As it turns out I'm not the only blogger paying attention to spider webs and dreams either. They're more than a call to alertness, but also a reminder of interconnection.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Another video from the future

Sorry that I keep straying into politics. Fudge. I promised myself long ago that Dreamcrisp is not a political blog. Hopefully posting this video will destroy any little bit of political integrity I have left so I can focus again on what really matters: Finding the time bag.

Compliments Eugene Mirman

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Genocidal glass houses

I've read dozens of stories about Congress's resolution on the Armenian genocide in Turkey this week and I keep looking for the journalist who steps back and says.... hey, isn't it sorta interesting that the US has never admitted its own genocide against Native Americans?

I know genocide has some strict definitions and European colonization may have not intended genocide (only resource and labor extraction, right?). But it's hard to get around Andrew Jackson's campaigns - "Indian Removal" - and if that isn't intent i don't know what is.

Kinda hard to be a world moral authority when... oh, you know.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Don't taze me bro

As usual, I'm a couple weeks behind the times. But the Andrew Meyer Incident is actually local news for me, and it's still reviberating in this community even though it's pretty much deflated into a beer-drinking catch phrase for the rest of the world.

Watch it for yourself. Although everyone can agree that Meyer is annoying and looking to stir up a ruckus, does he constitute a threat when he's got six — count 'em — six big-boned police officers on top of him? This is the important question to me because this is the moment that he was tazered, twice.

No doubt about it, he was clearly resisting arrest. But the math (6 cops, 1 loudmouth) doesn't seem to carry a remainder of 50000 volts. Twice.

Unlike many of the paranoid voices at the University of Florida, I don't think this is a signal of the police state to come. This is what a police state looks like. But it's gonna play a big part in formulating the policy for police action at free speech rallies in the United States for the next generation. A University of Florida task force on the subject of Tasers met for the first time this week.

As I'm new to town, I'm just taking the temperature here and I'm finding that the south is as raucous as ever. And that makes me a bit proud.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Grounded part II

Week 2 in the swamps:
I killed my first poisonous snake the other day. A juvenile moccassin, aka Florida cottonmouth aka Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix, it was hanging out by the front steps of my parents' house. I'm all about respecting nature, ya'll, but humans are territorial too. I might bleach out the bones because I've always wanted an articulated snake skeleton.

In other news, my girlfriend and I found a place to live in a tiny town (650 residents) on the outskirts of Paynes Prairie. I'm psyched to be so close to this amazing natural feature, and also well out of hollering distance of the college football scene.

I'm really humbled about how friendly and trusting people are down here. I mean, my new landlord didn't ask for my credit report or even housing references. Actually, he didn't even ask for my last name! Wow. Everyone else in the community has been friendly and I think a little shocked that a couple of San Francisco cats like ourselves are interested in hanging out in Swampville USA. I tell them that luckily their coffee's hella good otherwise I'm outee.

Intense dreams continue in this transition. I'm trying to pay more attention than usual, writing them down when I have the chance. All kinds of dream characters from my past are coming up - people and places I haven't thought about in years. I figure that parts of myself that have been underground for years are coming back to life now that I'm back in the south. Whole dream ecologies breathing life into my conscious mind. Old ways of thinking reviverating against new patterns, really bringing into light how I'm not who I used to be.

But I'm not just a Californian fish out of water either. No, now I'm a snake-killing, biscuit-eating, small-town-living cracker with a penchant for archetypal thinking and apocalyptic dreaming. And the living is good.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


We made it. Six days and many gallons of gasoline, three cheap motels and three campgrounds, 2800 miles and approximately two pounds of trail mix later, we arrived in the sweet, fetid heart of the southern lowlands.

In the last two weeks, I went from seeing this ten paces from the front door:

to this:

I picked up a boar jawbone off the road yesterday, have already eaten biscuits twice (if you count dumplings), and have a fresh collection of sand gnats bites on my ankles to pick at in my sleep. Good clean swampy fun!

Hence, culture shock. When I'm in between, the world really reveals itself. No comforting habits, no daily grind, no automatic pilot. Beautiful, delicate, raw and unflinching cognitive dissonance is really the only way to go.

And the more biscuits, the better.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

California Endgame

These are my last eighty something hours in California. I'm moving from the former lands of the coastal Miwoks and the Ohlone to the ancient stomping grounds of the Timucua and the Potano. After looking west into the ocean's pregnant silence for the last three years, I'm turning back to the east. the dirty south, to be exact. It's gonna happen in a blur, and it goes something like this:

hardpan cracked earth to sage hills and mesas to hesitantly rolling land on down to the dank mud of the mississip straight on to the riverine paradise of the southern toes of the appalachians settling into the coastal plain sands and the marsh swamp estuaries.

Then my perpetual culture shock will turn inward and eat itself like a confused but decidedly limber ouroboros. Because he can.

So here's what it looks like when it moves.

Awe is the interiority of these mists. They're metaphors for each other, and also pointing to something unseen. That'd be mystery.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My favorite pirate

It is good, in times of transition, to remember our heroes who inspire us. Here is my all-time favorite pirate.

"Captain William Dampier, who is often quoted as an example of a big, bold pirate, was in fact a mild man compared to the other pirates. He was really a naturalist who occasionally practiced a little piracy on the side, more or less by accident." (from A Ladybird book of Pirates, 1970).

This is a rare shot of Captain Dampier checking his email out at sea.

I also want to take this opportunity to shake my head at Bluebeard, who was a terrible pirate with no sense of imagination and too many empty rooms in his castle.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Canada still cold

It's true that record low ice levels in the Artic may be responsible for some drastic changes in weather in the near future.

The good news is, we'll be able to open the Northwest Passage perhaps as early as 2020. That's gonna come in handy once McDonalds colonizes the north pole. Until a proper beef pipeline is in place, of course.

However, Canadians maintain that their country is still cold and miserable, after hearing that the promise of a bountiful future, as well as gentle lefty values, may be luring too many Americans above the 66th parallel.

Me? I'm moving to the dank heart of the southern swamps.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Today's apocalyptic vision

Manzanita bushes creeping over the old roadbeds, slowly covering the gash of 20th century asphalt with a food forest. We tend the roads by harvesting berries, herbs, kudzu, and other medicinal succulents. It's mid-summer and I'm eating huckleberry pie every morning with my cup of roasted bay nut tea. One night during the new moon, we watch the Perseid meteors overhead and talk about the old days, missing the HBO but not so much the isolation and constant warfare. Fade out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Integral Dualism

Stuart Davis takes one for the team in this dialogue between his green lefty humanist self and his cynical transhumanist alter ego. Somehow, both sides of himself lose as Kosmic nondual reality laughs at the gentle hominid that just wants to save the owls.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Feral Kevin serves up the Funk

The wild-crafting mojo of Feral Kevin has gone native on a new server, serving up hot plates of instructional videos on some of my favorite subjects: sustainability, permaculture, and how to survive on the weeds in your own backyard.

He also knows a mean recipe for black sage beer, but has been historically tight-lipped about it. My sacred duty is to crack the code sometime this month.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Meat Bubbles

Here's my vote for the Suburban Fetish of the Month. A friend of mine just purchased the Fetch-a-Bubble, which provides, quote, "hours of chicken-scented bubble fun" for your dog. He is, like his dog, intrigued and simultaneously horrified at the phenomenon of Meat Bubbles.

I promise I'm not being paid for this referral. In fact, I'm pretty sure that meat bubbles are the worst idea ever. But I can't deny its insidious genius. Dogs are, indeed, morbidly fascinated by bubbles. And this device promises to crank out a thousand meat-scented bubbles a minute.

Let's repeat the central promise here: Hours of meat-scented bubble fun! You know, I have a cousin who can match this level of productivity, meat bubble by meat bubble, after eating a bowl of my mom's beefy chili.

So is this Suburban Fetish just the reinvention of the Fart Machine for a more distinguished audience? The lines are open for debate.
Image is property of Gazillion.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The History of Meat Helmets

Speaking of the shadows of history, I must alert my faithful readers to this important micro-history about Western Civilization and its wily ways. It's shocking how our predilection for hats of meat is largely ignored on the day-to-day.

Well, now you know. Thanks to the Reverend Jack for the tip.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Piles of rocks

I've been quoted recently concerning a fascinating archaeological anomaly in the southeastern United States - the humble rockpiles that are scattered across the fields and forests of rural Georgia. In the July fourth edition of Flagpole, writer Jonathan Railey focuses on how vestiges of the past manage to remain protected because they remain invisible. Check it out: it's not every day that light is shed on the shadows of history.

Unfortunately, as Railey laments, the invisibility strategy is no longer working out for the rock piles, which are increasingly disregarded and destroyed by thirsty land development. This happens because most rock piles are believed to be "no more than" field clearing piles or property markers from the turn of the century. For the majority of the cases, this is the most likely scenerio.

However, an older phenomenon hides amongst these stones: rock piles built by Native Americans sometime in the deep past. While the most common myth is that they can mark burials, there is very little evidence for this. Another possibility is that they are prehistoric sacred sites, or "prayers in stone" as the United South and Eastern Tribes now call them. Because so much has been lost about the ways of the past, the reasons for these rock piles are largely mysterious.

Of course, the real pickle is that there is no sure-fire way to identify the origins of rock piles using standard archaeological investigation..... unless you dismantle them. The United Tribes recently made a call for protection of the prehistoric rock piles (USET resolution 2007; 037), but it's difficult to protect what cannot be discerned.

Archaeologists in the Northeast are responding the the call for protection; hopefully this new wave of public attention will result in new, non-intrusive methodologies for the study of rock piles. Check out this blog for good information about the mystery of rock piles in the NE.

My hope is that greater attention to landscape, more systematic survey techniques and a healthy respect for researcher intuition will help identify these crazy little piles of rocks. Don't let me start blabbing about radical empiricism again. We're still learning how landscape affects perception, and the rock piles themselves may have something to teach us about that. With a greater understanding of how the first Americans constructed their perception of landscape, their cosmology may become more visible again.

It's just hidden in plain sight.

Update (7/27/07): My response to Railey's article can be found here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Don't feed the animals

Just got back from a backpacking trip in the Trinity Wilderness. Here's the lake we camped at deep in the Klamath mountains- spring fed, clear and cold. The mosquitos were rough at sunset so I kept the incense burning.

One night, a brazen young doe approached our camp and fed quietly on nearby mosses. Then she made eye contact and approached further until she stood within ten feet of me. As she craned her neck out and sniffed the air, we realized she was expecting to be fed. She must make these round every night to the campers, and judging from her behavior, she makes out all right on this welfare system.

I finally stood up and told her to go away. It would have been a sweet moment, but I don't want any part of domesticating the wildlife of the Trinity Wilderness. By feeding the deer, we make them dumb.

While this was happening, I suddenly remembered a dream I had about six weeks ago in which a deer approached me to eat. In the dream, I held out an apple and the deer munched it quickly. Then it transformed into a translucent red glowing scorpian and finally into a kokopeli insect figure that played its own probiscus like a flute while the sounds of classic jazz piano filled the night. I'm not making this up.

Despite this experience, I decided that feeding the deer in real life was not an appropriate way to honor this dream. There is no simple parallelism between waking and dreaming life, despite our hopes. What is good for the deer in my dream is ultimately harmful for the deer in consensual reality.

Besides, I didn't have an apple.

The zoo-like spell of this "wilderness" lake is our own creation. My fascist environmental self gnashed its teeth and beat the drums as I contemplated making a sign that read "Don't feed the animals!" That attitude doesn't help either - now I'm the zoo-keeper!

That's all from the western edge of the empire this week. Stay tuned for further adventures in wilderness trangressivity and smooth jazz.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lucid Nightmare Interview

The Lucid Dream Exchange just published its summer edition, and included is Robert Waggoner's interview of myself.

Included in the interview, of course, are my favorite topics in dream studies: lucid nightmares, healing, the Conquistadors of Consciousness, abstract geometric imagery, flying, ancestor dreams, and lucid dreaming as a scientific methodology.

So for anyone who's interested in what I have been up in the dreamworld for the last three years, this is the Dungan download. (Pdf under Ryan Hurd)

For more of my work, check out my new blog about dreams, lucid dreaming and consciousness research.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wild Plum Harvest!

It's summer! Check out the plums bursting off the trees in the California hills. We harvested for about half an hour, and walked away with three backpacks full of ripe plumage.

Plum bread, plum soda, plum beer, plum jam, plum chutney.... we're set for the next year and we hardly made a dent in the crop. You see, there's just not enough squirrels and birds around to eat the fruit. We shot the bears long ago, and the coyote are only mildly interested. So it's up to us, folks.

I get excited when I go on urban forages. There is a palpable sense that this could be a way of life, not just a Bay Area hobby between runs to the grocery store. My apocalyptic sensabilities get stirred up. What would life be like if all the food wasn't under lock and key? If the homeless were allowed to eat restaurant scraps? If I had to feed my family with the resources located only in this valley?

And here's a close-up of the season's first plum bread, just to point out that some things really shouldn't be photographed on macro. It was the most delicious eruption of plum vulgarity ever. A tart vortex into warm comfort. It was a gooey mess of goodness, to be completely honest.

Next up: plum soda.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Golden Gate

The Pacific Ocean revealed a rare treat earlier this week in San Francisco. The wreckage of the King Philip - a 19th century clipper ship - emerged from the sands of Ocean Beach for the first time in over twenty years. This wreckage is considered the most intact wooden shipwreck in the Northwest US. This is what's left of the hull.

I went down there on a blustery afternoon to snap a few photos. The preservation is amazing, considering that the planks originate from trees that were cut down somewhere in New Engand well before the Civil War. All kinds of items that would usually degrade are preserved in underwater conditions, mostly due to an anaerobic environment where the bacteria and fungi can't get a foothold.

This is a romantic-era painting of the shipwreck by Gideon Jacques Denny. The King Philip was not the fastest ship in the fleet when it ran ground in 1878. It was an old model, and couldn't keep up with the speed of steel hulled boats or the reliability of the new steamers. By the time the old clipper slumped onto Ocean Beach, it was mostly hauling bird and horse shit for use as fertilizer.

Oh, San Francisco, what is it about you that attracts the hauling of poop from all over the world?

Everyday I walk down to the Golden Gate, I watch the cargo boats heading out to Asia, loaded down with plastic detritus and bing cherries. I've always wondered about how it's come to this, how the global market structures our social order for the dubious honor of cheap cellphone accessories. As it turns out, the trade of prestige items has always been a powerful human drive in the San Francisco Bay.

Long before European contact, Native Americans gathered along these shores. Back then, 2000 years or so ago, the bay was lined with hundreds of shellmounds, where the human dead were buried along with oyster shells, ground stone tools and animal bones. Directly across from the Golden Gate, where the tongue of fog penetrates the heart of Berkeley, the political leaders of the coastal chiefdoms held court on those mounds.

These were not just garbage heaps, but ancestral power spots. The high-status familes lived on the mounds, holding elaborate rituals and feasts, and celebrating death as the eater of all things. As Archaeologists Edward Luber and Mark Gruber suggest, "the dead must be fed."

They danced, feasted, mourned and lived their lives on the estuary shores- and oh yes, they traded too. A lot. Their activity was not so different than what goes on today in the Oakland Harbor, the aggrandizement of wealth and the trade of distantly-produced goods. Perhaps this is what the Golden Gate demands of us, to feed the landscape with our bones, our tools, and our surplus.

Yeah, the Golden Gate demands surplus above all else. Bounty and abundance! If we can't pay the ferryman, we should stay at home. When the King Philip lost its anchor in the rough waters outside the gate, it was sailing without ballast. There was nothing in the hold. Not even poop. They learned a harsh lesson; pass with sufficient abundance or be tossed ashore by the underwater allies.

Keep this in mind next time you drive over the bridge. I recommend some junk in the trunk.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

MySpace is PornSpace

An Internet marketing firm recently posted this tempting data on the right, suggesting that social networking sites are poised to beat out pornography sites, click for click, any day now. Looking for porn? Click here.

Many folks are celebrating the news as evidence that the Internet is maturing, no longer just the tool of lonely peoples everywhere trying to get their rocks off in the comfort of their own homes (and, uh, at work, where apparently 70% of adult site visits occur).

As the Economist has noted, it could be that more adult material has simply shifted into the social networking arena, such as in peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

For the record, I am not placing a value against the right of people to consume and view images of their fancy. It's just one of those things that is guaranteed by the first amendment. As Parker Posie once said "Welcome to America, it's the land of milk and honey; don't knock it."

However, I believe I have a right to choose when I want to view these images. And as I am also a MySpace guy, I can tell you that at least one social networking site is actually merging with pornographic values without my consent.

Lately on MySpace, ever since Daddy Murdoch took over, my social networking experience is bookmarked with videoclips of nineteen year old girls covorting around and sucking on cherry lollypops. Sometimes, I get to watch a woman peel off her sweater, and other times it's disappointedly only a stock photo of a blond lady looking over her shoulder and grabbing her own breast. I signed on to MySpace to get back in touch with lost highschool friends and cousins, not to jerk off.

So, is pornography really on the decline? I think no. Instead, mainstream culture is continuing to absorb porncentric values. In today's society, there is no place that is not the market. You don't go to the market on saturdays; you're in the market perpetually. And that seems to be the way the Internet is absorbing pornography. Social networking is sexy.

So, like, is Friendster still alive? Anybody from MySpace wanna jump ship with me? I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Modern Day Atlantis?

Since I'm probably moving to Florida in the next six months, the following piece of archaeo. news really hits home. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to move back East to enjoy the last days of the coastal plain as we know it (before the sea levels rise, ya'll). It's an attitude that sneaks up on me like a sweet, sorrowful breeze .... I call it nostalgia for the present moment.

The wave that destroyed Atlantis

The legend of Atlantis may be more than just a myth. Research on the Greek island of Crete suggests Europe's earliest civilisation was destroyed by a giant tsunami. Until about 3,500 years ago, the Minoan civilisation was flourishing in the Eastern Mediterranean. But around 1500 BCE the people who spawned the myths of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth abruptly disappeared. Now the mystery of their cataclysmic end may finally have been solved. A group of scientists have uncovered new evidence that the island of Crete was hit by a massive tsunami at the same time that Minoan culture disappeared.

"The geo-archaeological deposits contain a number of distinct tsunami signatures," says Dutch-born geologist Professor Hendrik Bruins of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. "Minoan building material, pottery and cups along with food residue such as isolated animal bones were mixed up with rounded beach pebbles and sea shells and microscopic marine fauna. The latter can only have been scooped up from the sea-bed by one mechanism - a powerful tsunami, dumping all these materials together in a destructive swoop," says Professor Bruins. The deposits are up to seven metres above sea level, well above the normal reach of storm waves. "An event of ferocious force hit the coast of Crete and this wasn't just a Mediterranean storm," says Professor Bruins.

Source: BBC News (20 April 2007) Read the entire article here.

You know, if all the double-wides in Florida were equipped with a steel hull or at least a foam-filled bottom, then the apocalypse, when it rolls in, could quickly be transformed into the world's largest houseboat party.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Revolution will be televised after all

Video blogger Josh Wolf has been released by the feds after a record seven and a half months in prison. He eventually gave them what they wanted - a video of a violent demonstration - but has held onto his rights (and his satisfaction) because he refused to testify before a grand jury. The charge? Not giving up source materials.

Josh's message: journalists are still not protected under federal law.

Josh's second message: the government cannot decide who is and who is not a journalist. Neither can the New York Times, all the other righteous bloggers in the blogosphere, or even Daddy Murdock.

Let's face it, we're all watching, participating, and documenting our process. Civilization is undergoing an interesting transformation as the ways in which knowledge are traditionally codified are becoming subverted and diffused. The oligarchy of information is only hanging on to the nightly news. Blogging is just the beginning.

I'm not a radical, I'm just the son of a librarian. And damn straight I'm taking notes.

BTW, Karl: You can't erase emails anymore, yo. Good luck with that.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Imaginal Archaeology

We're heading down to San Diego today for the annual conference for the Society of the Anthropology of Consciousness. They're an eclectic group of anthropologists, transpersonal psychologists, and consciousness explorers - including the remnants of the academic psychedelic research scene from the 1960s.

Back before Timothy Leary started hawking LSD like it was snake oil.

The image above is a prehistoric rock art site in Nicaragua, an ancient sacred site close to my heart, and the reason why I'm travelling down to San Diego. Spirals, concentric rings and other abstract geometric shapes (as well as as a few monkeys, birds and otherworldly creatures for good measure) were pecked into these boulders by the indigenous people of Nicaragua long before the Spanish arrived in the 15th century. Archaeologists still don't know who these people were, or when they lived.

I'm presenting a short paper on my experiences in Nicaragua last year when I volunteered with the Ometepe Petroglyph Project. I tracked my dreams during the fieldwork session to reveal my biases, expectations, and intuitions about prehistoric rock art on Ometepe Island. That practice forever changed the way I see the enterprise of science.

Let me tell you, I'm all about William James' radical empiricism, and learning to pay attention to the anomalous experiences we have but tend to deny because they don't fit our conscious worldview. Dreamwork can do this, as can body meditation, journalling, learning a new language, fasting, and watching an entire season of Battlestar Galactica in one sitting. I recommend all but the last.

When it's all said and done, this work is really about sense of place. By staying close to our perceptions, we can learn how be open to the unique landscapes all around the world and also in our own communities.

This work is crucial for places like Ometepe Island, where the ancient rock art is endangered by modern living practices as well as the eco-tourism market that is capitalizing on the artifacts.

I hope that by sharing my experiences about rock art and dreams, that more people will come to remember - and protect - the sacred landscapes we live within.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Lucid dreaming on the radio

Veteran lucid dream researchers will be live on the web on Wednesday, March 28, 2007 - 9am Pacific (noon Eastern) to share their experiences about dreaming and consciousness.

Check them out at Bob Hoss's portal for the live radio program.

Below is the blurb from sponsors the Association for the Study of Dreams:

Lucid Dreaming – Exploring the Inner Space of Your Dreams!
Robert Waggoner and Dr. Ed Kellogg

Description: Have you ever become aware you were dreaming while in your dream? Did you know that with proper training you can explore your own dreamscape from within? This week Robert Waggoner and Dr. Ed Kellogg will discuss the research, as well as well as decades of personal experience, into the profound nature of the lucid dream. They will discuss methods for learning to dream lucidly as well as some of the extraordinary experiences they have encountered in this inner space exploration of dreams. Conscious explorations of your dreams can help you understand the nature dream reality, your own inner mental processes, and perhaps become a personal aid in the self-healing and transformational process of dreaming.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hard pill to swallow

Neuropsychiatrists are on their way to learning how memories are formed, consolidated and stored. I think this is cool. But this study has some Dark City implications.

I'm not sure why this is a major paradigm in neuropsychology, but many scientists want to learn about memory so they can destroy it. Very quickly the fascination moves from how interior experiences are represented in the brain to how those processes can be halted and erased.

And, of course, how to pump the recipe into an over-the-counter pill.

This will all play out in later years with the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, which used to be called "shell shock" and later, "combat fatigue." These days, the term PTSD has widened its umbrella, and now is considered to play a role in any traumatic experience, such as child abuse or rape.

My biases as a lucid dream researcher are here, because in my experience trauma comes to consciousness in order to be dealt with, not to be a cruel overlord over human frailty. Jeremy Taylor sez it like this, "No dream ever came to be remembered so that it can say 'Nah, nah, nah, you've got all these problems and there's nothing you can do about it.'"

But this position makes me sound like a dark overlord myself, as I decide who can and cannot be eased of their suffering, and how. According to experienced Buddhist meditators, "enlightenment doesn't care how you get there."

Since the flip side of enlightment is the condition of human suffering, maybe deleting our traumatic experiences really would be worth the meddling?

But then again... around the landmine of trauma and secrets and fears, fortifications of defenses build up, and these networks would not just disappear too.

Say, do you know the way to Shell Beach?

Thanks to transhumanist George Dvorsky for the tip.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mead in America

Last weekend, we brewed the first concoction of the year: a classic mead. AKA honey wine. AKA worst hangovers ever.

Honey is amongst the first substances ever fermented. Last I checked, the oldest evidence of mead was discovered in pottery jars in Northern China, dated to 7000 BCE. The chemical analysis revealed a fermented mixture of rice, honey, and fruit. So it's more of a sake/mead. I suggest this brew also resulted in mean hangovers, especially for the scientists involved.

According to the Masters of the Public Domain, the first known description of mead is in the hymns of the Rigveda, one of the sacred books of the Historical Vedic religion, dated around 1700-1100 BCE.

Here is pic of our mead, post brew, cooling down in the bathtub so we can pitch the yeast. Note the sterile conditions, which is very important when performing science.

Brewmaster Brian was forced to supply one of his freeweights to prevent the kettle from tipping over. Yes, it's true that the barbell is, in fact, saturated with Brian's sweat, but this actually improves the science due to a phenomenon we have identified as "tainting it with the taint." In a sacrifical taint, we ensure the quality of the rest of our sterile environment.

Sounds stupid, doesn't it? It works.

Assuming the yeast will take ("Hey look, we're in a sea of food! Let's poop out some alcohol!"), our mead will be drinkable by summer, delicious by winter, and absolutely divine in about a year.

Not too sure about 9000 years from now.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Salt Point Foray

A couple friends requested more mushroom postings. So here's some pics from a recent fungi foray in Salt Point, CA. Above is a cup fungus known as an "orange peel." Overall, it's been a weird year for mushrooms due to the erratic rainfall, but we found some nice specimens on this trip.

Mostly we encountered Candy Caps. The fruiting was really obscene. They were everywhere. These delicious lactarius species smell like maple syrup. I walked away with bags full of these little guys, with hopes to add them to my pancakes and cookies. People also flavor homemade ice cream with candy caps too. I've got a whole mason jar filled to the brim, just waiting for the butter to hit the skillet.

The other highlight of the trip was the fruiting of coral fungi under the cedar and pine. I'm told they're edible, but they look too much like brains for me to dig in.

We're heading out tomorrow to our local mountain - Diablo - for some good ole car-camping fun. Can't let the rain keep us inside, or it'll be April before I breathe the fresh air again!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

On the interpretation of dreams

Before I build my castle of words
let me say that this dream
I am about to verb-alize
is not really a story
even though it will begin, introduce
some tension and then conclude,

Morever, this dream really happened to me
and it happened before
the tricky puns begin to eat at the froth of detail
left behind when the tide of my voice
falls back,
not yet expressions of my sexuality or
life choices or
perceived difficulties with networking at social events
where cheese is cut into cubes.

There is no sex, actually, or froth, or even
clean moist stacks of cubed cheeses,
only a few remembered moments which scratched an itch
before I could disarticulate the sensation from
The Word, the muscle from the hide.

So before I build this castle of words
let me say that this dream existed
before I skin myself like a rabbit
hung from a rafter exposed,
glinty, drying in the air.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Xmas Crime scene

I love mushroom forays because it scratches my itch to look at the ground. Doing archaeology allowed me this privilege for almost a decade, but then one day I realized I liked live people more than dead ones. Before that, looking at the ground was fueled only by gathering poptops to make into necklaces, and occasional bouts of low self-esteem. (For those of you born later than 1982, the lids of soda cans used to pull completely off, creating razor sharp metal debris that proved to be an excellent choking hazard.)

But for the next four months in CA, the crick in my neck is rewarded by finding mushrooms. And on rare instances, I get to investigate a cross between an archaeological site and a mushroom patch: A mushroom novice's crime scene.

We came across this scene on xmas day. A bag filled to the brim with false chanterelles. These would be quite the catch if only they weren't worthless, poisonous mushrooms. It's as if someone spent the better part of an hour gathering these specimens, and then someone walked by and laughed. The novice was ashamed, and quickly fled the scene, also leaving his knife in the hub-bub.

And here's a pic of a deadly gallerina, found the same day on our foray with primitive skills instructor Kevin Feinstein.

It's pretty, but it'll melt your liver in two days time. Humbling beauty!